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4th Nobel Laureates Symposium

on Global Sustainability
“4C: Changing Climate, Changing Cities”
25 April 2015, Hong Kong


Changing  Climate,  Changing  Cities  
The  Great  Urban  Transformation  

from  the  4th  Nobel  Laureates  Symposium  on  Global  Sustainability  
Hong  Kong:  25  April  2015  
We   are   at   a   watershed   moment.     Climate   change   poses   an   immediate   threat   to   the   safety   of   our  
home,   the   Earth.     If   we   act   now,   we   can   seize   the   opportunity   to   transition   to   a   safe,   sustainable  
future.     Cities   have   been   major   contributors   to   human-­‐induced   climate   change.   As   hubs   of  
innovation,  they  can  take  the  lead  in  its  solution.  
As   9   of   the   world’s   10   largest   urban   areas   are   in   Asia,   and   half   of   the   fastest-­‐growing   urban  
economies   are   in   China,   we   have   chosen   to   meet   in   Hong   Kong   to   discuss   the   challenges   and  
opportunities  presented  to  all  cities  by  climate  change.  
Economic   development   has   lifted   millions   of   people   out   of   poverty   and   offered   even   more  
prosperity   to   many.     However,   explosions   in   consumption,   population   and   urbanisation   are  
placing  enormous  pressure  on  natural  resources  and  social  structures  alike.      We  stress  that  a  
sustainable  future  requires  reducing  the  impact  of  urbanisation  on  climate  and  ecosystems  by  
respecting  the  limited  resource  capacity  and  restorative  capability  of  the  Earth.  
In  order  to  safeguard  citizens,  economic  assets  and  supporting  ecosystems,  cities  need  to  adapt  
to  the  climate  change  that  is  already  underway.    We  urge  cities  to  map  the  risks  to  which  their  
citizens   are   most   vulnerable,   to   reduce   those   risks   where   it   is   possible,   and   build   resilient  
social  and  physical  structures  where  it  is  not.        
As  powerhouses  of  creativity  and  action,  many  cities  have  already  become  the  first  responders  
to  climate  change,  leading  the  nations  of  which  they  are  part.  We  support  the  urban  collectives  
that   have   developed   to   share   knowledge   and   experience,   and   allowed   cities   to   have   even  
greater   impact   by   catalysing   and   empowering   similar   responses   elsewhere.     We   challenge   all  
city   governments,   innovators,   and   the   private   sector   to   work   together   to   unlock   necessary  
resources  and  enable  evidence-­‐based  local  action  to  limit  further  man-­‐made  climate  change.  
Sensible  climate  mitigation  and  adaptive  measures  inevitably  have  co-­‐benefits:    energy  efficient  
buildings   reduce   costs   and   provide   greater   comfort;   reducing   reliance   on   fossil   fuels   can  
dramatically   improve   air   quality   and   thus   human   health   and   quality   of   life;   successfully  
addressing   climate   risks   increases   business   investment   and   job   opportunities.   We   encourage  
weaving   sustainable   practice   into   the   complete   fabric   of   city   life,   so   that   cities   will   become  
more  efficient,  healthier  and  more  prosperous.  

Cities   do   not   and   cannot   exist   in   isolation.     They   are   part   of   global,   interdependent   networks  
that  connect  them  to  each  other,  to  rural  communities,  and  to  the  natural  world.    We  advocate  
increasing   the   sustainability   of   urban   interconnectedness   by   moving   towards   economies   that  
reuse   resources   in   a   continual   cycle.     Doing   so   will   increase   the   value   of   materials   and   re-­‐
manufacture,  stimulate  new  business  models  and  jobs,  and  reduce  environmental  pressures  on  
an  already  stressed  planet.  
The   cities   of   tomorrow   are   forming   today.     Whether   regenerating   from   old,   historical   sites,  
rising   up   as   planned   new   cities,   or   assembling   into   informal   settlements   precipitated   by  
economic  and  political  failures,  these  urban  areas  will  be  home  to  another  1-­‐2  billion  people  by  
2050.      Managing  this  great  transformation  in  a  manner  that  supports  sustainable  development  
and  is  adaptive  to  change  and  new  learning  is  a  central  challenge  of  the  first  half  of  our  century.    
Whilst  it  is  crucial  that  all  cities  employ  sustainable  and  adaptable  practices  as  they  continue  
to   grow,   we   make   a   special   plea   for   innovative   effort,   resources,   and   political   leadership  
focussed  on  improving  the  infrastructure  that  serves  the  urban  poor  and  most  vulnerable.    
Climate   change   action   by   urban   and   regional   areas   occurs   more   rapidly   and   economically   when  
supported  by  higher  jurisdictions  that  clearly  enunciate  and  act  on  ambitious,  long-­‐term  climate  
policies.  This  makes  national  and  international  action  critical.    An  average  global  temperature  
rise  of  more  than  2°C  above  pre-­‐industrial  levels  would  cause  a  dangerous  increase  in  climate  
change  impacts,  including  weather  extremes  and  sea  level  rise  unprecedented  in  the  history  of  
human  civilization.    We  challenge  nations  to  adopt  and  meet  national  targets  consistent  with  
the  internationally-­‐agreed  2°C  guardrail.    This  will  require  reducing  the  net  flow  of  greenhouse  
gases   from   humans   into   the   environment   to   nearly   zero   by   about   mid-­‐century.     Cities   can   be  
pioneers   in   this   process,   and   many   already   are   –   by   enacting   plans   for   local   greenhouse   gas  
reductions  that  are  sufficiently  ambitious  in  magnitude  and  speed.  
Without  strong  action,  all  the  world’s  citizens  will  bear  the  brunt  of  dangerous  climate  change.    Yet  
our   message   to   you   is   not   one   of   despair,   but   of   hope   and   resolve.       Many   cities   are   in   the   vanguard  
of  a  new  vision  for  sustainable,  healthy,  and  responsible  living.    Working  together  in  growing  urban  
networks,  they  are  exhibiting  leadership  in  swift,  effective  climate  change  action.      
We   challenge   national   political   leaders   and   policymakers   to   heed   the   call   –   not   only   from   leading  
scientists  and  economists  –  but  from  their  own  cities  and  citizens  –  to  generate  a  strong,  equitable,  
and   science-­‐based   agreement   at   the   UN   Climate   Summit   in   Paris,   in   partnership   with   mayors,  
business  leaders  and  civil  society.  This  will  require  turning  words  and  principles  into  practical  policies  
and  actions.    It  will  require  cooperation  amongst  scientists,  politicians,  civic  leaders  and  citizens.    It  
will  require  not  just  setting  targets,  but  meeting  those  targets  in  the  near-­‐term  and  throughout  this  
century.     It   will   require   assisting,   engaging   and   empowering   societies   whose   economic   and   social  
circumstances  prevent  them  from  mitigating  and  adapting  to  climate  change  on  their  own.  
For   our   part,   we   will   use   our   passion   and   skills   to   support   efforts   to   limit   and   manage   climate  
change.     We   will   work   with   you   to   build   a   legacy   that   will   be   felt   for   centuries:     The   legacy   of  
instituting  healthy  relationships  with  the  natural  systems  that  support  us  all,  to  create  a  world  that  is  
more  sustainable,  more  prosperous,  and  more  humane.    The  future  of  humanity  depends  on  it.